NRL Round 26 Previews and Tips
Broncos v Storm
Thu 3 Jan, 7:45 pm, Suncorp Stadium
The Brisbane Broncos will kick off the final round of the 2015 NRL regular season against the Storm on Thursday night as the makeup of the top eight finally looks to be taking shape. The Broncos overcame a run of poor form heading into the finals with their massive win over the Rabbitohs last week as the retiring David Stagg comes onto the bench for the suspended Alex Glenn in a well-deserved recall for the veteran. Lachlan Maranta also comes onto the Wing to replace Jordan Kahu. The Storm named an unchanged squad from their last start win over the Cowboys. PREDICTION: The Storm have displayed worrying inconsistency heading into the finals, with coach Craig Bellamy going so far as to state his team do not deserve a top four spot. Conversely, the Broncos find themselves riding high with a guaranteed top two finish and a performance against the Rabbitohs last week that stamped them as genuine Premiership contenders. Expect the Broncos to send David Stagg out a winner in the last game of the season.
Ben’s Tip: Broncos -3.5 @ $2.00 (Pinnacle Sports)
Roosters v Rabbitohs
Fri 4 Feb, 7:45 pm, Allianz Stadium
The South Sydney Rabbitohs will take on the Sydney Roosters this Friday night as the reigning Premiers were dealt a major blow to their title defence with John Sutton suffering a broken leg and star hooker Issac Luke suspended for a shoulder charge. They will be noticeable absentees against a Roosters side also missing stars Jarred Waerea-Hargreaves and Mitchell Pearce. The Roosters will welcome back the suspended Michael Jennings at Centre as Mitchell Aubusson moves to the bench and Matt McIlwrick to 18th man. For the Rabbitohs, Cameron McInnes comes in for Issac Luke while Chris McQueen comes into the side in the Second-Row. PREDICTION: The Rabbitohs will be in damage control as they look to recover their confidence after their 35 point loss to Brisbane last week. The absence of Issac Luke and John Sutton won’t help either, so expect momentum to stay with the Roosters as they look to claim their third straight minor Premiership.
Ben’s Tip: Total Match Points over 39.5 @ $1.90 (Unibet)
Panthers v Knights
Sat 5 Mar, 3:00 pm, Pepper Stadium
The Penrith Panthers will play the Newcastle Knights this Saturday afternoon in a match that will have a large bearing on the unfortunate recipient of the Wooden Spoon in 2015. Both sides sit equal last along with the Tigers and any of the three who place last at the conclusion of the round will go down in NRL history as the most successful last placed club.
The Panthers have named an unchanged squad from their loss to Canberra last week, while the Knights will welcome back Adam Clydsdale at the expense of Danny Levi at Hooker.
The Knights are the side in better form after a narrow two-point loss against the Bulldogs last week cut short a two game winning streak for the embattled club. The Panthers’ morale will be down after another year of injury setbacks interfering with their season and both teams will be looking to salvage what they can for next year. Knights to come away with the win.
Ben’s Tip: Knights +2.0 @ $1.92 (Crownbet)
Dragons v Tigers
Sat 5 Apr, 5:30 pm, ANZ Stadium
The St George Illawarra Dragons will play the Wests Tigers this Saturday evening as the joint-venture club is rocked by the upcoming departure of club captain and legend Robbie Farah. Alongside Farah, Keith Galloway and Pat Richards will be leaving next year as rumours build that Dene Halatau and Chris Lawrence are also set to leave.
For the Dragons, Jake Marketo and Eto Nabuli come into the side in the Second-Row and the Wing respectively as George Rose will play from the interchange. The Tigers have included Kyle Lovett on an extended bench in an otherwise unchanged side.
The Dragons will hope for some momentum heading into the finals after managing only one win from their last three games. The Tigers have been in good form lately so expect them to fight hard at the prospect of getting the Wooden Spoon as the departing players look to leave on a high. Expect the Dragons to come away with the win in a sloppy affair.
Ben’s Tip: Dragons Head to Head @ $1.75 (Bet365)
Cowboys v Titans
Sat 5 May, 7:30 pm, 1300SMILES Stadium
The North Queensland Cowboys will take on the Gold Coast Titans on Saturday night in a Queensland Derby to finish the season as the Cowboys look to recover from an injury crisis that put their Premiership hopes in jeopardy. The injured James Tamou returns at Prop after an injury scare at the expense of Ben Spina, while five-eighth Michael Morgan is still sidelines with an ankle injury.
The Titans will welcome back Ryan James at Prop at the expense of Kalifa Faifai Loa as Matt White and Eddy Pettybourne are pushed to the bench.
The Titans are at the start of a rebuilding phase as they are set to lose star players Nate Myles, Aiden Sezer and David Taylor for the 2016 season. Coach Neil Henry has made the right moves to rebuild the struggling club and with two wins on the trot Queensland’s youngest NRL team look set for the future. The Cowboys however will be keen to build momentum heading into the finals and will look to put their best foot forward for the finals series. Cowboys to come away with the win.
Ben’s Tip: Total Match Points Under 45.5 @ $1.95 (Luxbet)
Eels v Raiders
Sun 6 Jun, 2:00 pm, Pirtek Stadium
The Parramatta Eels will play the Canberra Raiders this Sunday afternoon in a match between two sides who will look at season 2015 as a missed opportunity. Both sitting only two wins outside the top eight, the Eels and the Raiders had the potential to make the finals this year, but poor form and injury conspired to keep both clubs out of the finals as they look to rebuild for next season.
The Eels have named an unchanged squad for the match, while the Raiders will welcome back Jordan Rapana as Sisa Waqa moves to Fullback to cover for the suspended Jack Wighton. Mitch Cornish also comes in at five-eighth for Blake Austin.
Given that both teams sit equal 9th on the ladder and have displayed inconsistent form in the last month, tipping the winner out of this contest will be tough. However, expect the Raiders to back up their big win over the Panthers last week to beat the Eels at home.
Ben’s Tip: Raiders +4.5 @ $1.91 (Unibet)
Sharks v Sea Eagles
Sun 6 Jul, 4:00 pm, Remondis Stadium
The Cronulla Sharks will play the Manly Sea Eagles on Sunday afternoon as the Sharks will look to cap their remarkable rise up the NRL ladder to 4th with a win to consolidate their position. Having gone through a difficult start of the season, the Sharks now look to be getting back to their pre-ASADA controversy form as the club looks for its maiden Premiership.
Anthony Tupou and Ben Barba return for the Sharks on an extended bench while Blake Ayshford will be absent from the squad that beat the Eels last week. For the Sea Eagles, the suspended Willie Mason will be replaced by Ligi Sao as Jesse Sene-Lefao comes onto the bench.
The Sharks will look to consolidate their top four position as a loss against Manly could mean either the Storm, Bulldogs or Rabbitohs move into 4th spot. The Sea Eagles own miraculous rise was cut short a few weeks ago as two consecutive losses for the club cut their finals race short. Expect the Sharks to come away with the win.
Ben’s Tip: Sharks -5.5 @ $1.92 (Ladbrokes)
Bulldogs v Warriors
Sun 6 Aug, 6:30 pm, ANZ Stadium
The Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs will play the New Zealand Warriors on Sunday night as the ‘Dogs will be on the hunt for a top four berth against the struggling New Zealand club. The Bulldogs have overcome a run of injuries and suspensions earlier in the year as well as a more recent injury crisis that has claimed Halfback Trent Hodkinson and Hooker Michael Licha to put four consecutive wins together to round off the 2015 regular season.
The Warriors will welcome back Chad Townsend at Five-Eighth as Mason Lino moves to Halfback. Ben Matulino returns at Prop as Raymond Faitala-Mariner replaces Sione Lousi on the bench. The Bulldogs will play Josh Reynolds at Five-Eighth as Aiden Tolman comes into the side at the expense of Lloyd Perrett.
The Warriors have had a horrendous end to the 2015 season as they never recovered from a season ending injury to star Halfback and international Shaun Johnson. Johnson’s injury, compounded by injuries to other key players hurt the Warrior’s finals tilt but the Kiwi club will look to 2016 as a massive recruitment coup will bring Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke to the club from across the ditch.
The Bulldogs will be rejuvenated by the return of Josh Reynolds as they will be keen for a top four spot. Expect the Dogs to make it five in a row against a struggling Warriors outfit.
Ben’s Tip: No bet, the Bulldogs are just too short in betting.